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Author Topic: The Biggest Gun Wins?  (Read 4179 times)
myrkul
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July 24, 2011, 08:49:50 PM
 #41

"It is better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees"

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July 24, 2011, 08:52:07 PM
 #42

Edit: Fuck! I can only find 3 and 4! is 4 stand-alone, or would I be completely confused?

I think you can read any of them without reading the others, though they share some characters and an overarching story. The fourth will make more sense in light of the others. The Stone Canal and The Cassini Division are the best if you like dramatic hard SF, The Star Fraction and The Sky Road are probably still interesting if you are more interested in the political/social ideas.
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July 24, 2011, 08:56:44 PM
 #43

Edit: Fuck! I can only find 3 and 4! is 4 stand-alone, or would I be completely confused?

I think you can read any of them without reading the others, though they share some characters and an overarching story. The fourth will make more sense in light of the others. The Stone Canal and The Cassini Division are the best if you like dramatic hard SF, The Star Fraction and The Sky Road are probably still interesting if you are more interested in the political/social ideas.

That's what I was afraid of... I hate jumping in in the middle of things. I guess I'll see if I can find Fractions somewhere.

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July 24, 2011, 09:21:54 PM
 #44

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"It is better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees"

Well said...

- Welcome to the new free economy
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July 24, 2011, 09:27:44 PM
 #45

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"It is better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees"

Well said...

I can't claim it, It was Zapata's AgitProp gal who coined that one. I'll give this to the commies: they can come up with some great slogans.

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July 24, 2011, 09:33:14 PM
 #46

Regarding an earlier post questioning decentralized resistance to well trained military, may I remind  folks that the Viet Cong handed the US military's ass to them long enough that we had to draw out of Vietnam, much like the "terrorist" groups are doing in the middle east.  Much like Anonymous is doing on the cyber-front

Hippy Anarchy
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July 24, 2011, 09:36:25 PM
 #47

Regarding an earlier post questioning decentralized resistance to well trained military, may I remind  folks that the Viet Cong handed the US military's ass to them long enough that we had to draw out of Vietnam, much like the "terrorist" groups are doing in the middle east.  Much like Anonymous is doing on the cyber-front

Like Washington did... History is full of examples of small, decentralized forces making life terminally unpleasant for large, well-trained invasion forces.

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July 25, 2011, 08:44:08 AM
 #48

Regarding an earlier post questioning decentralized resistance to well trained military, may I remind  folks that the Viet Cong handed the US military's ass to them long enough that we had to draw out of Vietnam, much like the "terrorist" groups are doing in the middle east.  Much like Anonymous is doing on the cyber-front

Like Washington did... History is full of examples of small, decentralized forces making life terminally unpleasant for large, well-trained invasion forces.

Hmmm, come to think of it, the VC were fighting the US government and Monsanto (agent orange)

Hippy Anarchy
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July 25, 2011, 02:46:00 PM
 #49

I would like to introduce additional factors into the puzzle.

Does the multitude of small armies exist OUTSIDE the territory controlled by the big army, or INSIDE it?

Is their goal to attack the SOLDIERS of the big army, or the INFRASTRUCTURE of the society supporting it, or the LEADERS of the big army or, I hope not, civilians whom the big army exploits to raise its resources?

Is their GOAL limited to fighting it out, or do they have a social / economical goal external to themselves? Do they have an IDEOLOGY?

As a result, what is the popular ATTITUDE towards the big army, and comparatively towards the small armies, among the people whom they derive manpower and resources from? How many people SUPPORT, OPPOSE or AVOID the big army, and the small ones? What level of coercion must the big army bring against controlled territories to sustain unity?

Furthermore, what level of coordination do the small armies seek among themselves? Do they operate a command chain or cell structure? Are they easier or harder to infiltrate than their big counterpart? Are they easily targeted and located, or is fighting them like chasing shadows?

Finally, technology. Is their technology cheaper or more expensive, more robust or fragile? Which techologies are involved, and are they conductive to centralization or oppositely, decentralization.

(An example pertaining to the importance of technology: suppose the big army to draw support from a planet. Suppose the small armies to operate on asteroids. A planetary ecosystem allows for efficient living and production. However, a planetary gravity well requires extraordinary expenses to dispatch objects to orbit. Comparatively, on an asteroid, living is hard, but dispatching anything you build to a mission is highly economical. In addition, one asteroid strike can destroy a planet's ecosystem. A planet cannot maneuver or escape detection. Meanwhile, an asteroid with engines can run from an attacking fleet, or sit passive and hope nobody knows about it.)

(Another example pertaining to the importance of technology: suppose the big army draws support from a star. Suppose that small armies operate on autonomous space ships. Suppose the technology of the time allows for artificial singularities (black holes). One artificial singularity dropped into a star on a correct course will destroy it at a pace proportional to the initial mass of the singularity, eventually forcing evacuation of the solar system around it. However, employed against a target of little mass, such a weapon would be patently useless, merely pucturing a little hole into its target and moving on.)

I don't hold an answer, that's why I'm asking those questions. I merely propose that from a game theoretic viewpoint, size is not the only factor to which must be accounted for, but the reasons why conflict occurs, the ecological, economical and technological background, as well as the models of organization of the people involved, it would seem they must matter, and furthermore, that size is not an independent factor, but a given size can only occur together with a given combination of other factors.
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July 25, 2011, 08:10:28 PM
 #50

I would like to introduce additional factors into the puzzle.
Does the multitude of small armies exist OUTSIDE the territory controlled by the big army, or INSIDE it?

External, pretty much by definition. Both armies are private, the large one is attempting to establish a State.

Is their goal to attack the SOLDIERS of the big army, or the INFRASTRUCTURE of the society supporting it, or the LEADERS of the big army or, I hope not, civilians whom the big army exploits to raise its resources?

Neither. it is simply to repulse the invaders.

Is their GOAL limited to fighting it out, or do they have a social / economical goal external to themselves? Do they have an IDEOLOGY?

Here, if it wasn't already, it becomes clear you didn't read the rest of the thread. The soldiers in the small armies do indeed have an ideology - AnCap.

As a result, what is the popular ATTITUDE towards the big army, and comparatively towards the small armies, among the people whom they derive manpower and resources from? How many people SUPPORT, OPPOSE or AVOID the big army, and the small ones? What level of coercion must the big army bring against controlled territories to sustain unity?

The popular attitude would be nearly universally against the big army, as the overall societal structure is one of 0 coercion, and they would be attempting to set up a coercive State.

Furthermore, what level of coordination do the small armies seek among themselves? Do they operate a command chain or cell structure? Are they easier or harder to infiltrate than their big counterpart? Are they easily targeted and located, or is fighting them like chasing shadows?

Unknown, and to a large part, unknowable. The most resilient structure is the Cell, though likely that would not be needed. If needed, however, it would be used.

Finally, technology. Is their technology cheaper or more expensive, more robust or fragile? Which technologies are involved, and are they conductive to centralization or oppositely, decentralization.
We're assuming relatively terrestrial, and roughly equivalent, levels of technology between the two forces.

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July 25, 2011, 10:09:30 PM
 #51

Some principles which might apply in any case:

- Bigger armies are easier to find and observe. Which provides an inherent advantage to smaller forces, especially covert ones. Their support structures would be harder to locate and strike against. Operations of the bigger army would be easier to notice and respond to.

- Bigger armies have a fundamental capability of undertaking siege & sweep operations against smaller ones, which smaller armies must at all costs avoid. What level of numerical superiority is needed to surround and sweep a given object, would be a function of the size of the object and the dimensions of movement available. On land, that generally makes two dimensions of movement, and the most efficient formation to surround something is a circle. In space, it generally makes three dimensions, and surrounding something in an easy case takes a sphere. This suggests that the numerical superiority required to perform a siege operation in 3 dimensions is one step bigger than in 2 dimensions. Peculiarities of landscape and (in)ability to use it, as well as deviations of the line of siege from a perfect circle or sphere, would of course count in favour or against the relevant parties, generally favouring the defending or local party, under the assumption that they'd be better adapted to maneuvering in their environment, which might be a pretty small difference in space or air, yet a comparatively big difference on land.

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Neither. it is simply to repulse the invaders.
Usually, some kind of priorities end up existing... either as a result of goals/ideology or a byproduct of organizational structure. These in turn shape how the force in question behaves, which shapes how they are perceived by non-involved persons, which determines if their support grows or diminishes... which could well determine if they can continue their course of action (invade, seize control, or oppositely demolish a system of control), or end up falling apart (e.g. defect, either out of disillusionment or to make it off with looted treasure) or end up being overwhelmed by opposition...

...which makes it all more complex, and not a direct function of size.

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The popular attitude would be nearly universally against the big army, as the overall societal structure is one of 0 coercion, and they would be attempting to set up a coercive State.
Well, if this assumption would hold, then the bigger army would get denied factual information, which is a serious disadvantage. To overcome a lack of cooperation on new terrain, they would need a qualitatively better technology.

Another question is: to which degree could non-involved population deny information or assistance to one or another force. Basically, the autonomy of the population and their amount of choices would matter. If the invading force makes up 1% of the total population and behaves like an ass, and the population is highly autonomous, has lots of choices and is heavily armed, they'll join the defending force and crush the invading force. If however the armies are comparatively big relative to the non-combatant population, and the latter does not have a high degree of choice available, such a scenario may not be even remotely feasible...

...and thus, more complexity, and fewer simple answers.

Whether a group of persons pursuing some struggle, operating by certain principles and organizing in certain ways... whether they prevail or fail, does not in my opinion depend on their initial size, but rather, whether they gain ability or lose it in the process; whether their ways are efficient or counterproductive... and ultimately, how their behaviour matches their scale, and whether they can adapt it to changes in scale.

From my viewpoint, it is thus rather hard to associate a given initial size with a probability of loss or victory. I find that I rather can't, and probably should stop trying.

To provide a perhaps inappropriate analogy from the field of medicine & food... if a person has a weak immune system, 25 cells of tuberculosis may start a runaway process leading to premature dealth. However, if a person is in good health, and the cells involved are instead a benign strain of lactobacillus, a person may well drink a few billion of them, in the form of a cup of yoghurt, and not suffer in health but gain more.

EDIT: sorry, edited a dozen times to finally express a close approximation to what I ought really mean. :D
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